Organic Waste Haulers: Wheelhouse of the Circular Economy

June 2021 CCC Newsletter

The ‘California’s Waste Sector Net-Zero Greenhouse Gas Report’ demonstrates that the solid waste, recycling, and composting industry in California was 3.7 times “Net-Zero” in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 2018. The Report findings support the continued and expanded implementation of waste recycling programs and is an important document for policymakers to consider during climate change policy development. CARB is a world-leading agency, dedicated to protecting public health and natural resources, while effectively reducing air pollution and mitigating the impacts of climate change. CARB will be holding a series of public workshops in collaboration with other State agencies, from June 8-10, 2021, to initiate the development of the update to the AB 32 Climate Change Scoping Plan and will reflect California’s goal to achieve carbon neutrality by 2045.

The Scoping Plan is expected to be adopted by CARB by November 2022, with extensive community engagement and equity. CARB, with a new chair and three new board members, will be preparing this Third Update of the AB 32 Scoping Plan in parallel with fulfilling the Legislative Audit recommendations. The Plan is expected to focus on collecting and evaluating data that will translate into improved metrics to show the socioeconomic benefits of GHG reductions and to provide transparency to the Legislature and other stakeholders. Improving the State’s ability to identify the cost-effectiveness of each of its incentive programs is among the goals of the Scoping Plan. The Scoping Plan will also focus on renewable natural gas (RNG) production and use, and the sequestering of carbon in the natural and working lands of California with compost use, among other practices.

Net-Zero GHG emissions for the Waste Sector has been defined by CARB, in their 2014 AB 32 Scoping Plan First Update. To meet Net-Zero, one’s avoided GHG emissions must be greater than, or equal to, one’s operational GHG emissions. By analyzing the operational GHG emissions from landfilling, transporting, composting, and processing versus avoided emissions from alternatives to landfills, such as recycling and sequestering carbon in the soil, it will be possible to demonstrate that the Waste Sector, within California, has already achieved Net-Zero GHG status in the year 2018, far ahead of the 2030-2035 goal.

After being told by CARB and the large air districts to reduce diesel use over two decades ago, even before the first Scoping Plan, the waste industry stepped up and has been making great strides in replacing their diesel fleet with compressed natural gas vehicles and fueling infrastructure, spending billions of dollars. Meanwhile State mandates were adopted to divert organic waste from landfills and reduce short-lived climate pollutants, where in-state carbon negative RNG is now being produced to fuel those trucks. As CARB workshops up, they will be reminded of their past promises made to reduce diesel use and commitments to lower carbon fuels, such as CNG and RNG, along with the costs of tens of billions of dollars in new investments that will be required over the next two decades to meet wishful electrification. Even before electrification may achieve market traction by 2030, the Waste Sector will likely be 9.9 times Net-Zero in GHG emissions in 2030, with continued recycling and composting, to reach a 75% statewide recycling rate, and by continuing carbon negative RNG programs instead of retaining a diesel fleet for the next 13 to 18 years until there is a reliable electrification infrastructure.

When it comes to Environmental Justice issues, for the hauling, recycling, composting and bioenergy portions of the Waste Sector that are represented by the California Compost Coalition, we are getting off landfills, off diesel fuel, off NOx air emissions, off pesticides and fertilizers with certified organic compost use, while developing edible food recovery programs in priority population communities. This Net-Zero GHG Report promotes environmental poetic justice for all, as we are in the wheelhouse of the circular economy developing programs for over 30% of the waste stream.

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